I applied through Tokyo marathon's own charity system which worked out considerably cheaper than going through a sports tour company.
Expo had plenty of clothing to chose from and was a noisy, lively affair.
The race was well organised and involved several security checks, including every runner wearing a secure wrist band which was scanned before being allowed to enter the race start area.
The course was fairly uninspiring - lots of boring concrete buildings and only a couple of interesting points (a large shrine, Tokyo tower and Ginza Street glitzy buildings). Saying that, I found the race really enjoyable. The crowd support was brilliant and the food stations were the best I've experienced on a race! Cakes, tomatoes, biscuits, bread, jellies, plus the usual water and isotonic drinks.
Finisher t-shirt was a little nice but I was disappointed it was unisex (shapeless!) and mine was huge and I wasn't allowed to swap it. Medal is great and the commemorative bath towel was nice.
As a charity entrant I was looked after post-race, which was very welcome.
Posted on 08.05.18
I had tried before and failed to get a place in the Tokyo marathon via the ballot so this time I booked with Sports Tours International. I couldn't really fault them; communication was good, and everything (flights, hotel, entry etc.) was well organised, so all I had to worry about was the run.
I arrived on Thursday morning and went straight to the expo. The registration process was efficient but, in terms of stands, I didn't think this was as good as the London, Berlin or Chicago expos. If you are an international runner don't go there expecting to pick up your usual gels etc. for the race. There were a couple of stands with nutritional brands I recognised but most of what was on offer was unfamiliar. The Asics stand had massive queues so I ended up getting an Asics Tokyo 2018 top from a department store later in my trip.
I stayed in Shinjuku, which is where the race starts. I would recommend this because it meant I didn't have to leave early to get to the start and I didn't have to hang around long in the cold. Tokyo has a really good underground rail system and I was able to use that to explore on Friday and Saturday without wearing myself out before the race on Sunday.
I found pre-race nutrition a little challenging. I'm a vegetarian and trying to find things that I was familiar with (and I knew wouldn't disturb my tummy) and didn't have animal products in, was difficult given my lack of Japanese. My hotel did a good breakfast buffet, which helped, but I probably could have done a bit more research in advance.
On race day I got to my pen about 30 minutes before I started running. It is quite crowded at the start, but the road is wide. Because the first few km are downhill it is hard not to go too fast. It doesn't seem to be the most scenic of runs but you do get to see the mix of old and new in the city.
It is cup-only along the course, but there were plenty of drinks stations. I'm someone who isn't great with cups and normally manages to fling the water in my eye or up my nose, but these were stiff paper cups and worked fine. There were loads of volunteers holding out bags for runners to drop cups in and there was virtually no litter on the course at all! This is so different to the other road races I have done, and it was great not having to run along treading on cups or avoiding bottles.
The energy drink was Pocari Sweat, which is not a drink that we have in the UK and early on I realised that me and Pocari Sweat did not get on, so I stuck to water. Next time I would probably bring some tabs, so I could make up my own energy drink. In terms of food, I saw loads of oranges, tomatoes - apparently there were bananas but I didn't manage to get any of the latter.
The course is pretty flat, so no hills to worry about. There are a couple of places where you see the faster runners on the other side of the road. Great to see the elites zooming past but later in the race, when I was heading away from the finish at about 31km, and on the other side the runners only had a couple of km to go it wasn't the best feeling in the world!
The finish was great with enthusiastic crowds on both sides of the road making a huge amount of noise as we ran down the last few 100 metres.
We were then filtered, depending on the colour of our bibs, to different places to pick up our bags. On the way we were given a bottle of water, medal, towel (great idea), goodie bag with sandwich and drink etc. After that we had a very long walk to the baggage pick up area. We were give a foil blanket but, given it was a cold day, the distance wasn't ideal. Once I had got to the baggage area, my bag was produced very quickly, and I was directed to the shuttle bus and managed to get back to my hotel pretty swiftly.
Tokyo doesn't have the banners that entertain you in Chicago and London, or the amount of live music you find in Berlin (I've yet to do NYC or Boston). However, huge pros for me were the opportunity to experience the fascinating city of Tokyo and the wonderful support the runners got from the crowds and volunteers.
Posted on 15.04.18
Registering at the expo which is a long way from the city centre. The expo itself was disappointing for a major.
Logistics after the race were a bit akward. It took a long time to meet my mate as I was funneled down a one-way system. He had my bag and I was starting to get really cold.
Too many to mention. Crowds, marshalls, atmosphere, aid stations, course, bling! All the best I've ever experienced. This is a bucket list race and one everyone needs to tick off. I loved it!
I woke at 6am, had the usual porridge, banana and coffee. Strapped the knee up, kit on and then my pre-race show-stopper, a pink onesie! It was freezing in Tokyo and a warm throw-away was needed. I might have looked like a Tellytubby, but boy was I warm!
The pre-race atmosphere was incredible, like noting I've witnessed before. Organisation was slick and easy, I was in coral B, very close to the front based on my pre-injury expected finish time of 3:15:00. The start is by the government buildings in Shinjuku, close to my hotel for ease. Tall, neon clad skyscrapers dominated. Forget the knee, my main concern was would the Garmin pick up GPS with the towers! it did! Phew. At 9:10 40,000 excited runners were off! I was running in my first major and the smile was from ear-to-ear.
All along the entire route, the crowds were phenomenal, loud and encouraging. It's estimated that 1.5 million come out to cheer. Compare that to an estimated 500,000 for London. The locals made this extra special. Along with the brilliant route, yes it has some out and back turning points, but that really doesn't matter. The juxtaposition of traditional and modern buildings is brilliant. Live music and the chance to see the elite runners after turn points was special. Aid stations and toilets were plentiful, along with awesome marshalling. The level of organisation was something else to what I've seen before.
Right from the start, I was focusing on a knee injury I was nursing and that I knew would compromise my race. Strangely, I couldn't feel anything! No pain. It must be the adrenalin I thought. Great! I soon forgot about it all together and focused on my run. I took the first mile or so steady at around 8 min miles while I dodged the crowds and listened to the knee. Then once I couldn't feel any pain I was able to get in to my rhythm and speed up a little. I had no intention of going fast, I didn't have the mileage in my legs due to the injuries and besides that, I just wanted to enjoy the experience.
That said, the race was flying by, so much to look at and listen to. It was like a carnival, celebratory atmosphere. I came up to the half way point in 1:35:00. I was surprised, all was going well and I still felt very fresh. I hadn't been expecting this and was so grateful. Then, out of nowhere I could feel the knee pain kicking in around the 14 mile mark. I took some painkillers and naproxen at one of the aid stations and continued. I knew this second half was now going to be a real slog. the pain got worse with every step and it also started to hurt down the right as I had to put more pressure on that side and adjust my gait. Despite this, I was loving it and was determined not to let anything spoil the big day. I had already adjusted my expectations pre-race and to be honest, I felt grateful that I had got half way pain-free, with a decent pace already banked. By mile 20 the only pain I had was in my knee. The rest of my body felt good and surprisingly, the lack of training in the final 6 weeks wasn't showing. Perhaps it's because I had been forced to slow right down. I was still smiling and enjoying the unique experience, there is an irony in slowing down and taking it all in that I was happy about.......I didn't want this race to end!
6 miles later, I couldn't wait for this race to end! The knee was telling me to stop and the pain was extreme. I limped over the line in 3:48:50, my slowest marathon to date. I really didn't care however. I felt so privileged to be part of this festival of running and was so glad to receive that amazing bling. Time wasn't important to me, the memories will last a lifetime. This is a bucket list race and I enjoyed every second of it. If you get the opportunity to race in Tokyo, grab it, you won't be disappointed!
Posted on 07.03.18
A great race, fab city, brilliant organisation.
Course has lots of switchbacks which can be motivational or demotivational depending on how you are feeling...
Cant take bottles on the course and all water/sports drinks are in paper cups.
Course very clean, no litter etc, well looked after by marshalls/volunteers
Posted on 03.05.18
This my first major marathon so will always be special for that reason. the course was a threeway out and back and mainly was run up and down the main streets in Tokyo.
A good race however and where my 6 star finish dream started!
Posted on 06.12.17